President Donald Trump criticized NFL players who lodge protests during the pregame national anthem, saying Friday night that he wished those players would be released and encouraging fans who are offended to walk out of stadiums.
Speaking at a political rally in Huntsville, Alabama, Trump said: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b—- off the field right now. Out. He’s fired! He’s fired!”
Trump said the protests, which became public last year when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled for the national anthem during a preseason game, are “hurting the game.”
Trump didn’t mention Kaepernick or any other NFL player specifically during the speech.
Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers during the offseason and has not been signed by a new team since.
“The only thing you could do better,” Trump said, “is if you see it, even if it’s just one player, leave the stadium. I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore, anyway.”
Trump went on to say referees are “ruining the game” by calling 15-yard penalties for “beautiful” tackles. He also said that NFL ratings are down “massively, massively” because people prefer watching him. NFL ratings dropped eight percent in 2016 compared to 2015.
An NFL spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on what Trump said.